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The Worth of the ‘While’

Time and Taxes in a Finnish Timebank

Matti Eräsaari


Taxation always involves an element of value quantification, since to tax is also to implement a measuring scale—a process that is usually taken for granted. But when it becomes necessary to determine the taxational value of abstract time or labor, it is also necessary to outline the principles upon which such value is established. This article discusses the conflicting views of the Finnish Tax Administration and the Helsinki Timebank, a local exchange network, about how to tax ‘whiles’, the community currency that equates to one-hour stretches of work time. Based on a 2013 ruling by the Finnish tax authority and the Timebank's responses to it, the article asks, to what degree can the choice of a particular ‘standard’ be taken as a ‘moral’ choice?